The peoples forum outside with the official summit building in background. They couldn't get in so held it outside.
The peoples forum outside with the official summit building in background. They couldn't get in so held it outside.
One of 20 discussion groups at the Peoples' forum
pic of me being pushed over by police on the bridge where delegates from the summit were trying to join the Peoples Forum but prevented. I had no complaints about police until I saw videos. I made and kept eye contact and saw them melt back into humans, memorable moment.
WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
I was one of tens of thousands Quixotically seeking to influence the climate summit in Copenhagen. The failure of the governments to respond usefully to this greatest threat in evolution is well documented. Other aspects got missed.
It was an experience of extremes: We saw the monumental dysfunction of the combined world’s governments. And we saw alternative forms of organisation and governance emerging in the chaos and snow. I was surprised by a glow of pride in my parent country, Britain, I had forgotten what it felt like.
The two week summit took place in the Bella Centre. Outside it accredited delegates from across the globe arrived to contribute. Fourty thousand I am told, but the centre held only 15,000 so they queued. There were three parallel queues with different status moving in shuffles now and then in sub zero temperatures. Some put newspaper in their shoes to stop their feet freezing, some collapsed, many never got in.
They were representative of the globe, lots of black suited lap-topped Chinese and Japanese in tight huddles. I was offering the queues information on a strategy to reduce fossil fuel extraction so I got to talk to them. A South African nun said ‘This is the refugee experience exactly, the same lack of information and the misinformation, the same police hassle, no loos, no food and endless endless waiting’. But these were the well-heeled and influential of their countries. An ominous sign of things to come perhaps, as climate change claims more than marginal land and poor victims.
A Slovakian woman delegate confided ‘People think because they queue that it is something to get in, but it is not, inside we can do nothing, we just can watch it on a screen.’ I met people who had queued for 11 hours before getting in. I estimated a thousand people willing to wait, driven by the urgency to save what we can of our climate.
The third pole is melting. The loss of the Himalayan glaciers will deprive a third of the world’s population of drinking water, I am told. Ice-melt lakes threaten to overflow and flood densely inhabited areas. Africa is enduring long droughts, island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives have begun to sink under the sea. The mass movement of refugees has begun. At another point in this maelstrom I found myself alone on a busy street to the climate summit, kneeling by my Save Our Climate banner, in cold winds. Someone gave me gloves. A woman from Tuvalu whose nation is disappearing joined me. We stood there, two crying ageing mums, she hugging me. She broke off, looked up and opened her palms to the sky. ‘This is my first snow’. It was for many delegates. The whole event was a striation of surreal, wonderful and desperate.
There were three parallel events in Copenhagen. The Klimaforum was barely reported yet this alternative climate conference was larger than the government fiasco, and went without a glitch. All day every day 7 days a week there were 8 concurrent talks and discussions to choose from. Talks from the front line of climate change, on technology, innovative finance, from small famers (Via Campesina), from fishermen and inspectors (with arguments), role-play, films, government presentations, inspirational women (like Polly, a UK barrister proposing legal rights for nature), indigenous peoples' movements. I spent much of the first days in unstoppable silent tears, alternately of helplessness and inspiration.
Outstanding for me was a film from Britain- 'In Transition' It was astonishing, to come across the world and sit with people from all continents and hear homely very English and ordinary people show the way out of the impasse. These Transition groups are taking the reins to steer their communities away from fossil fuel dependence and discovering a rewarding frontier of development.
Then there was the background of volunteers and workers whose reserves of energy seemed boundless. The Kilmaforum cafe never ran out of organic food despite the staff working faster and faster to keep up with the numbers swelling with relocating Summit delegates. Around the city were free soup kitchens. I helped at one where a young group from Sweden had grown vegetables over the year on 500 square meters for the event. They horse and carted the veg to Denmark and provided thick soups for thousands. At the end they asked for donations which rapidly met their few expenses. The corporation provided warm schools for guests and protesters to sleep in free, public transport was free for attendees to encourage them to use it.
And then there were the protesters. A bit same old at times, but not the Peoples Forum. That had to be the most surreal, and the most empowering at this cross between Armageddon and the Apocolypse.
Remember Climate Camp? The UK climate campers were central to the humorous heroic endeavour to storm the Bella Centre and hold a peoples forum there. It failed, so the young people sat down between the police battle lines and held it anyway on the frozen ground. Twenty groups formed circles, debated and made action plans while the battles rumbled on two sides of them. ‘Surreal!’ commented one of many first time protesters.
I was on the metro with delegates who rose to wave and cheer the protesters who embodied their feelings. ‘I’m fed up with being a scientist, I want to be a trouble-maker’ said one.
In this Euro capital of cycling (a third of journeys are made by bike) abandoned old bikes are everywhere. The protesters went to the free workshop 'The Candyshop' and made up good bikes, to be left behind when they departed. Meanwhile they used them in protests, fetched food from the cities’ surplus, and fed the thousands with good simple bread and – not fishes but vegan equivalent. That's maybe how Jesus did it. One of them. They also kept tabs on those arrested (900 in one day), through a buddy system. Many took batoning, days in cages or hours tied on the freezing ground. I think only one person was deported, for cycling into a policeman, he happened to be from Pembrokeshire, my neighbour, I don't think I know a gentler boy, a bit clumsy perhaps...
The twenty action plans, formed under nerve-racking circumstances “Look behind you, no really look Out” all had similar themes. The emphasis was to build up strength in the young peoples' local communities using as a foundation the positive features of life without fossil fuels. The report backs were passionate and visionary, by-passing negativity, ignoring government. (see the video clip)
Which was just as well as the official summit degenerated into walk-outs, resignations, unscheduled meetings delaying scheduled ones (Premier Wen of China was kept waiting 2 hours outside the door), insults - Chavez of Venezuala said Obama deserved the Nobel war prize – chaos and secrecy (reporters said the leaked info became a flood and replaced official info) extremes (Sudan likened the values behind the climate accord to those that condemned 6 million Europeans to death), madness (China refused to agree to anything until the developed nations abandoned their commitment of 80% by 2050). It ended with five nations springing a done deal on the other 187. Chavez called it a coup of the UN , having experienced a few, he might know.
The poor lame deal that emerged from the summit owes its life to Gordon Brown and especially Ed Milliband among others. They hadn’t slept for 2 nights and were recalled to attempt resuscitation on dying deals when they had just got to bed or were on their way there at 4am.
I slept for 23 hours with a bad stomach on the coach back. Copenhagen had turned the world upside down. There were governments in the grand Bella Centre acting like children while children on the frozen streets acted like governments. I had seen the powerful in disarray, humour defeat fury, generosity feed thousands, Britain inspire and impress me (the last time I felt that was 50 years ago reading war stories), and along with everyone on the coaches, whereas we should have felt despair we felt the elation of hope. Mad.
Crossing the moat to Bella Centre
Blow up beds lashed together as a bridge, but the police are waiting...
Another day we occupied the City Square in the evening with pop-up tents and banners. The tent with poles lost a pole to the Police so looked broken backed.
The police didnt know what to do so had a quick meeting. Offered us half an hour there. We had our democratic long meeting and they waited and watched in amazement at our decision methods.
They agreed our terms but were amused and bemused by the insane English camping out in minus 14 and bitter winds. The mad young English people kept warm by folk dancing with rubbish bin percussion. The police shook their heads and tried not to laugh. Their chief worked it out: 'You are socialists, funny socialists, but socialists none the less. That is alright.' We had good chats. At 2 am the police were fed up standing over the deserted square and the shivering protesters, and insisted it was drive them home or arrest them. The campers tried to look disappointed!
We all cheered when they arrived back.
Free soup kitchen for cold protesters
BRUSSELS TO TALK TO NEGOTIATORS
Some of the Mothers and Others who went to Brussels ahead of Copehnagen
9 from Wales (see pic above this one) went to 2+ intense days of meetings and conferences about climate change in Brussels. Jill Evans, Plaid MEP arranged them. We met MEPs from 6 political parties, and 3 commissioners, 1 Euro environment agency man and attended 3 conferences. We were also televised and interviewed. Seems they dont get ordinary people penetrating the govt of Europe that often.
Of course we are wondering: What did we learn? Did we do any good? Is the climate more or less likely to be saved? What should we do now? Did we do the best we could or should we have done it differently?
The young commissioners we met seemed dedicated and professional. They had young children and shared our commitment. They believed what they were doing was going to work, siobhan said: 'It's not really going to work, is it?'
They seemed so switched on and intelligent and believing in what they were doing.
Over lunch the negotiator, in response to our boast of living low carbon asked what we were doing about the blocking of wind power in our country, he thought UK was mad. I was glad I could tell him about our small but useful turbine got despite planners.
I sat in for Jill at the Greens meeting, from many European countries, including faces I'd seen in the news. They felt glum!
Our Welsh MEPs were diverse! Jill seemed dogged and steadfast, working in the green free alliance, along with the snps as small nations seem to go for green. We met with the 3 other Welsh MEPs and they seemed unfocussed on the issue, wanting to change the subject: Our UKip MEP denounced wind turbines and called for tidal and wave power, our Labour MEP gave a long speech about the recycling in his county and supported the coal industry, our Tory lady thought the answer was biofuels using genetic engineering and nuclear power. Sue asked if we could work together for Wales to be a model of green and low carbon, she noticed they greeted this with enthusiasm at the end of the meeting.
The video conference with Yvo de Beor was fascinating. He is the secretary of the UN climate change convention, so key character working with heads of state.
He said the Copenhagen meetings should be seen to succeed, we had to the tools for this to happen. Otherwise we would be left with nothing. If we got the structures and commitments right in Dec we would have to start negotiating the next day
to build on this.
He believed China would surprise us. "They are now the biggest polluters in the world and the nation doing the most to mitigate climate change" He believed they would come up with absolute reduction figures and a date for their emissions to peak.
He said it was essential to change the architecture
of the United Nations.
From all our meetings a few themes emerged. One was an allergy nations have to being told what to do, especially USA by Europe, the southern countries by the North. We see this in UK. Another was the hope of smaller countries and regions breaking free of the blocs and forging their own alliances and going ahead to decarbonise.
Europe is sure it has led the way on climate abatement.
Everyone thinks emission trading is the way, along with binding commitments to reduce emissions.
No-one seemed to think major reduction in energy consumption was reasonable or desirable.
We recommended much reduced consumption of everything - low carbon lives - in our meetings, and described from experience the many benefits especially social. I think we need a power point with graphs to make this idea register for people.
I loved the experience. It made me realise that not all governments are filled with buffoons. There are serious intelligent moral people out there.
Others felt it was a glorious talk-shop with hundreds of smart bright people milling meaningfully from meeting to meeting, a meetaholics paradise.
I reckon both impressions are true.
The forceful and honest youngish man who is part of the negotiating team for Europe in Copenhagen said my suggestion that we should stop fossil fuels at source 'Would never be acceptable to the fossil fuel companies and the governments where the fuels are found - think of suggesting that to Nigeria and Shell" "But I am attracted to the idea!"
I found this the most heartening moment. He thanked me for one of Oliver Tickell's books on this sort of proposal. I am thinking how to present this to the oil companies - HELP WANTED - after all what have they got to loose? a little revenue as prices from reduced production would be huge, and what gain? fossil fuels for centuries to come as they wouldn't be used up in one generation, and a planet to sell them in. Sounds reasonable to me..
Basically if they could see the future as the scientists do, wouldnt they want to turn off the tap? It would wreak havoc, but nothing compared to the havoc of not doing so.
Is denial that powerful? Or do most people have no imagination?
Or is life without fossil fuels more horrific a prospect than no life at all?
Of is it they dont believe scientists or the evidence, prefering revealed truth from blogs and oddballs?ANSWERS WANTED
Soo, my councillor daughter meanwhile went to close down a coal power station in England
pic of my grand-daughterTilly (red hair) comforting a woman who had just been punched in the stomach.